Monday, April 6, 2009

Did Chiarelli screw the pooch?

Let me preface this by saying that by no means am I a Chiarelli-basher nor am I an doom-and-gloom troll as are (sadly) so common in Bruins forums. I generally agree with the moves Chiarelli makes and understand that not every move he makes will be perfect (Schaeffer, Nokelainnen) and that a GM should be judged by the total body of his work (Wheeler, Ryder, Lucic, Krejci, Savard, Chara). However, he really seems to have messed up by signing Thomas to a 4yr, $20M deal, a slight change from previous contract rumors.

The reason I say Chiarelli screwed up is not in the signing itself... the merits of which are definitely debatable but can easily be defended. No, my issue is with his apparent misinterpretation of the CBA. This quote is taken from the Bruins Blog Friday afternoon:

According to a source in the Bruins front office, part of what was driving the club to get the deal done now is that fact that Thomas will turn 35 years old on April 15.

When a player signs a new deal after his 35th birthday, per the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), although he can be bought out (at a two-thirds reduction in pay), his cap number can not be deleted from the club's salary commitments.

For next year, and for either two or three more years, Thomas will be on Boston's books for some $5 million a year. But because he has signed the deal before age 35, the Bruins have the safeguard -- that they would want to execute it -- to be able to buy him out at any time, cut their dollar commitment by one-third, and be able to spread the payments over twice the remaining term of the deal. It is a significant safeguard.

Now we are clearly led to believe by SOMEONE in the front office that the timing of this extension is key and provides the Bruins with some insurance against struggles and/or retirement. However, this is NOT the case as was pointed out by Larry Brooks and James Mirtle via Stanley Cup of Chowder. Curious as to what the disconnect was, I attempted to find answers in the CBA... no easy task for those unfamiliar with legalese such as myself. Here is what I found (transcribed from the CBA):
Actual Club Salary shall be calculated as follows:
All player salary and bonuses earned in a league year by a player who is in the second or later year of a multi-year standard contract which was signed when the players was age 35 or older (as of June 30 prior to the league year in which the contract is to be effective)...
The 'league year' in question is 2009 as the extension goes into effect next season. Therefore, the signing counts as 35+ and his cap-hit can NOT be affected by retirement. Only way to lose the 5M cap-hit is via trade or the ever-unappetizing buyout.

Now someone in the front-office was KPD's source and they clearly do not understand how the CBA works. My question is this... was this information allowed out to make the signing look better or was it a mis-interpretation by Chiarelli? Unfortunately, there is no positive answer for this... the former means Chiarelli (responsible for the front-office) lied to the fans... the latter means Chiarelli doesn't comprehend the CBA. Simply put, no good.

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